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Oakham Castle, Rutland

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Last Friday our string duo played for a funeral reception at the great hall of the 12th century Oakham Castle in Rutland.
Oakham Castle


We played for two hours, choosing the most beautiful classical works in our repertoire.The styles ranged from baroque to romantic but we began and ended with Bach, the most sublime of all composers.

Orton Hall Hotel, Peterborough

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Orton Hall Hotel is one of the best wedding venues in Peterborough, so we were delighted  when our string trio was invited to play wedding music here again a couple of weeks ago.
Orton Hall Hotel

We performed for  three hours during drinks and the wedding breakfast, moving from the conservatory – which is light and airy – to the main dining room.

Italian Music
The bride and groom had chosen extremely elegant decorations for the table settings and, as this was an Italian wedding, they had asked us to include some Italian music; so we played  Ave Maria, a selection from Vivaldi’s The Seasons, Italian arias – including Nessun Dorma and pieces from  La Boheme, La Traviata and Rigoletto – and  our own sheet music arrangement of Speak Softly  from The Godfather movie.
About Orton Hall
Orton Hall is an 18th century manor house surrounded by 20 acres of beautifully cared for grounds, which give  it a very open, relaxed feel. Organisation was excellent  throughout the day and the weather was wonderfully warm for October.

The Talbot Inn, Ripley

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At the beginning of September our string duet played for a wedding ceremony and reception at the 15th century Talbot Inn in Ripley, an old coaching inn which has historic links to Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton.  The bride had hired us in secret, so the groom  was very  surprised when we began playing, but I hope also delighted.
Talbot Inn Ripley

The Talbot is quite a distance from our homes so we’d  allowed plenty of time to get to there, and once we arrived  we had a chance to relax and warm up before performing a mix of classical repertoire as the guests arrived. We then played Pachelbel Canon in D for the bride’s entrance, Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Londonderry Air for the signing and Arrival of the Queen of Sheba as exit music.

After the ceremony the guests had drinks and some of them gathered round to listen while we played our own string duet sheet music arrangements of lighter pieces.

Kimbolton Castle, Cambridgeshire

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A few days ago our string violin duo played for a wedding reception at Kimbolton Castle, Cambridgeshire: a magnificent  venue with superb architecture and a fascinating history. It was formerly the home of Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, and in 1615  was bought by Sir Henry Montagu, a royalist who was one of Charles I’s most trusted friends in the Civil War.
Kimbolton Castle

Choice of music
The bridal couple had requested a selection of happy, relaxed music, so Roger and Amanda played a mixture of folk fiddle, jazz, baroque – in particular Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor for two violins – and Broadway songs – which Roger especially enjoys arranging. They set up in the courtyard of the castle which had some shelter, but also good projection, and had a very enjoyable afternoon with many appreciative comments from the bride, the groom and the guests. There was even a specially hired ice cream tricycle giving out ice creams to help people keep cool – an original and very appropriate idea as it was exceptionally hot weather.Overall this was a relaxed wedding in a marvellous countryside setting: a truly memorable occasion.


Castle Farm Guesthouse, Fotheringhay

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Last week our string duo played for a wedding ceremony at Castle Farm Guesthouse,  Fotheringhay in Cambridgeshire. The weather was extremely hot and the venue was peaceful and attractive with a huge garden leading down to the River Nene.
Castle Farm Guesthouse, Fotheringhay











We played outside in a gazebo hear the river and our repertoire included Wagner’s Bridal Chorus, Air on a G String and Arrival of the Queen of Sheba and movements from unaccompanied Bach cello suites.  In such high temperatures it was especially enjoyable to be close to the coolness of the river  throughout the occasion.

Bassmead Manor Cambridgeshire

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Last week our string duo  played for a wedding reception at Bassmead Manor Cambridgeshire. It was the second time we’d played here in a week and it’s no surprise it’s popular: it’s an exceptionally pretty venue in the middle of the peaceful countryside with a lovely garden. The restored barns are on the site of a medieval moat and the  area has been designated  a listed monument  by English Heritage.
Bassmead Manor Cambridgeshire

Our programme
The weather was  hot and for much of the time we were playing outside in a gazebo next to the river to the intermittent accompaniment of peacocks.We began with our own violin and cello duet arrangements of classical and baroque  music, moving on to newer arrangements of lighter pieces such as Viva la Vida, Palladio, Paradise, One Day Like This and some Beatles’ songs. Click here to buy some of our arrangements online:
The venue
It was good to play in a venue so full of history. We may not live long, but music will!


Recording at Wadenhoe Church

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Last week Roger and I completed some new recording at Wadenhoe Church. We’ll be selling the sheet music arrangements of the music we recorded on our website as soon as we have time to edit them thoroughly. To buy our first cd click below:

About Wadenhoe
We  have very generously been allowed  to use Wadenhoe Church in Northamptonshire again for our recording session and it’s a venue we’ve come to love: the surrounding scenery is beautiful and the acoustic  excellent, but more than this, the church  has a feeling of rightness, balance  and harmony. In this way it reminds me of Bach’s music, and always helps me feel calm and regain  perspective – no bad thing when you’re about to embark on the stress of a recording session.
Wadenhoe Church
About the music
In the morning we recorded six tracks of folk music: Londonderry Air, Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair, Over the Hills and Far Away, Lilliburlero, My Love is Like a Red Red Rose and Dance to Your Daddy. In the afternoon we continued with four pop tracks: Eleanor Rigby, All You Need Is Love, One Day Like This and Songbird. Most of us know the names of the composers of the pop songs, but who wrote these beautiful traditional folk tunes ? Folk music is street music , but can these really be the product of ‘committee’ composing? Who knows?


St Mary the Virgin Church, Bozeat

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On Saturday our string duo played for a wedding ceremony at St Mary the Virgin Church in Bozeat  Northamptonshire. I hadn’t been to this village before and it dates from Saxon times; its unusual name probably means Bosa’s gate – Bosa being a local earl who owned lots of land a  long, long time ago.  The wedding took place in the  secluded St Mary the Virgin Church, which is as pretty and traditional as you would hope a village church might be.
ST Mary the Virgin Church Bozeat

Our programme
The bride had requested  Bridal Chorus for her entrance, Moon River, Flower Duet and Somewhere ( from West Side Story) for the signing, and Viva la Vida as exit music. We also accompanied two hymns: Amazing Grace and Morning Has Broken – my own favourite hymn. All of the pieces we performed were our own  sheet music arrangements.

Sedgebrook Hall Hotel

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Yesterday our string duo played for a small, intimate wedding at Sedgebrook Hall Hotel in Northamptonshire. There were only twenty five people present and this made the occasion especially personal. Our appearance was a complete surprise to the groom and the guests; it had all been arranged in secret by the bride, who had spent the last few months playing her husband-to-be recordings of different pieces to discover what he liked best, without him realising  she had an ulterior motive.
Sedgebrook Hall Hotel


Performing at Sedgebrook Hall Hotel
As the guests arrived we played baroque –  Bach, Purcell, Vivaldi and Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba – then the couple  walked into the room to the accompaniment of Wagner’s Bridal Chorus. For the signing we played Pachelbel’s Canon followed by the Flower Duet by Delibes

Widor’s Toccata for String Duet!
We ended the ceremony with Widor’s Toccata. This was the first time we had performed  Roger’s very technically demanding arrangement of this work and it’s surprisingly effective for string duo.Luckily the weather was beautifully sunny and during the drinks’ reception there was another surprise for the groom: a performance of One Day Like This, his favourite song.

City of Peterborough Youth Ensemble

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Last Sunday Fedora Strings’ violinist – Roger Stimson – and myself  led the violin and cello sections of the City of Peterborough Youth Ensemble ( CPYE) in a concert of string orchestral music in Cambridgeshire. It reminded me of what a marvellous experience string orchestral playing can be. The repertoire is superb and every member of the ensemble is crucial: you play as part of a team – with no conductor – so trust and interdependence are vital.

I  used to love exploring  the great works for string orchestra when I was a member of the Scottish Baroque Ensemble and later, as artistic director of Peterborough String Orchestra.  I could name one superlative piece after another: Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings, Dvorak Serenade for Strings, Suk Serenade for Strings, Shostakovich Chamber Symphony, Britten Simple Symphony and Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Arensky Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky,   Bach Brandenburg 3, Grieg Holberg Suite, Stravinsky Concerto for String Orchestra, Rossini String Sonatas, Elgar Serenade for Strings and Introduction and Allegro, Handel Concerto Grossi, Purcell Chaconne in G minor, Mozart Divertimenti , Warlock Capriol Suite, Vivaldi The Seasons and Sinfonia in G…..

Yet  now, having played Roger’s  adaptations of more or less anything for string duo, and beginning to create  sheet music arrangements myself,  I realise that the string orchestral repertoire  could be widened far further. In fact, for its next Peterborough concert in Cambridgeshire, CPYE will be playing an arrangement of Monteverdi’s famous Beatus Vir – which was originally written for voices with string accompaniment. The title of this early baroque work means ‘Blessed is Man’  and you can hear the joy in every phrase; there’s an  excellent performance on You Tube by the Swedish group  Vox Scaniensis  which has some delightful string playing.

Isn’t it amazing to think this work was composed around four hundred years ago, yet  is still easy  and straightforward to understand ?  As  musicologist Robert Donington says:” We are of this modern age and much has changed which could not be changed back again, even if we so desired. But not our deeper human nature and not the essential musicianship so intimately bound up with our human nature: these do not change.”